A Typology of Multidimensional Adjectives

Journal of Semantics 30 (3):335-380 (2013)
Galit W. Sassoon
Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan
This article presents corpus-based evidence for a typology of multidimensional adjectives, such as healthy and sick. The interpretation of these adjectives is sensitive to multiple dimensions, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood-sugar level. The study investigated the frequency of exception phrases that appear to operate on an implicit universal quantifier over adjectival dimensions, as in healthy, except for a slight cold, and not sick, except for high cholesterol. On the emerging typology, adjectives classify by the way their dimensions are glued together to create a single, uniform interpretation. As a default, the dimensions of adjectives such as healthy are bound through implicit universal quantification, while those of adjectives such as sick are bound through existential quantification. In adjectives like intelligent the force of quantification over dimensions is context relative. Moreover, the article presents support for the hypotheses that antonym polarity and modifier distribution guide our choice of quantifiers over dimensions in different adjectives. Thus, this research sheds new light on the nature of negative antonymy in multidimensional adjectives, and the distribution of degree modifiers amongst them. Finally, it raises new questions about multidimensional comparisons, and about the adjective–noun distinction
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DOI 10.1093/jos/ffs012
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